The mechanism of healing of facial bone fractures was investigated in a rabbit model. Twelve New Zealand white rabbits underwent surgically induced fractures of the right infraorbital rim and fracture ostectomies (4 to 5 mm) of the left infraorbital rim. Animals were sacrificed 2, 4, and 8 weeks postfracture. Bone, including periosteum, obtained from each fracture or fracture ostectomy site was divided longitudinally for hematoxylin and eosin staining, fluorescent microscopy, microangiography, and microradiography. Sequential fluorochrome labels of oxytetracycline (30 mg/kg), alizarin complexone (30 mg/ kg), DCAF (20 mg/kg), and xylenol orange (90 mg/kg) were administered 24 hours preoperatively and at 1, 2, 4, and 8 weeks postfracture. All fracture and fracture ostectomy sites demonstrated vascular ingrowth, mineralization, and woven bone formation by 2 to 4 weeks postoperatively, beginning with a cartilage precursor. Subsequently, the woven bone was replaced with remodeled lamellar bone, resulting in complete bony healing by 8 weeks postoperatively. These steps were substantiated by microscopic, microradiographic, and radiologic examination of the specimens. This study demonstrates that fractures of the facial bones in a rabbit model heal by a process of new bone formation that resembles secondary union in endochondral bones.
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